Skateboarding, despite being about creativity and freedom, seems to have a lot of rules. “Don’t push mongo”, “No bonelesses or no complies in S.K.A.T.E”, “No pushing in the bowl!”. These unspoken rules also spill out into the world of filming – “Don’t ask for clips from your filmer”, “Real filmers don’t film at manny pads”, “No skatepark footage”. I am particularly guilty of the last one, as I love park footage; my favourite filmer, P-Stone, used tons of park footage in his Thrasher videos, and one of my favourite skaters of all time, Dan Drehobl, frequently skates parks in his parts. I wanted to figure out what the stigma behind skatepark footage was, so I went out and spoke to some other (admittedly better) filmers to get their thoughts on it.
Callun Loomes, the filmer and editor of the Get Lesta videos, is no stranger to filming. With several acclaimed videos under his belt, he is a respected filmer in skateboarding due to his commitment to quality editing and connecting with some of the best skaters in the UK. For him park footage is more engaging when it’s from mates: “If I’m honest I only watch skatepark footage from people I know. I definitely skip through it online, and would rather see one clip outside the park than ten skatepark instagram clips.”
A common trend that appeared from every filmer I talked to was recognising that for some skaters, ramp and transition skating is part of their appeal, so park footage is acceptable. Callun noted “Transition skating is slightly different, because there are only a handful of natural street tranny spots. I would happily watch Alex Hallford skate parks all day long.”
Forde Brookfield, who produced the Baghead Crew videos, has spent time filming some of the most respected pro skaters in the world, including Ben Grove, Deer Man Of Dark Woods, Tom Penny and Chad Muska, all of whom feature in Forde’s latest video “Funeral”. For him, skatepark footage is a bit harder to quantify, but ultimately says the context of the obstacle is key: “Where does the line of “skatepark” start and where does it finish? People will argue the matter, but where does bowl and vert come into the equation? I personally wouldn’t film for a full length video and include any skatepark footage, but I would include vert and bowl (dependent on person and the bowl). I guess they both have their own leagues. I’d rather film a transition trick on DIY or a natural obstacle if one was available.“
Phil McDonald, who’s in charge of the output from Leicestershire based crew Fuck Mountain, spent most of last year filming skatepark footage for their latest 4 part video Cementurians: “I think there’s so much fresh footage and coverage coming daily through social media that it needs to be something striking or interesting to catch your eye. So if it’s old Harry hometown hero with his 20th park clip of the week skating a ledge, I don’t wanna know. Anyone can ride a skatepark, but not everyone can skate a spot in the streets. Show me you’ve put the effort in, and let’s see what spots your city has.”
VX1000medic is an Instagram account where skateboarding filmers can purchase camera equipment or get their old cameras repaired. Mostly based around the restoration of the classic Sony VX1000, the account is managed by dedicated skate filmers for skate filmers. Zach, who runs the account said “I think there’s definitely a place for skatepark footage if it’s a dude who rips transition. But I think people would see a perfect man made ledge as cheating or something”.
The notion of “cheating” when filming a video part was fuelled by skaters like Steve Berra, who was caught out skating skatepark obstacles disguised as legit street spots in his 2005 DVS Skate More part. Despite these purpose built spots being a precursor to Berra’s own media empire/website “The Berrics” (which ironically made a specific type of skatepark footage acceptable in the following years), people described Berra’s part in Skate More as cheating, and he was ridiculed about it for years after. The theory is Berra didn’t work for his part and took the easy route. Incidents like this definitely contribute toward the attitude that skatepark clips suck.
Get Lesta’s Callun agreed with the idea that skatepark clips are somewhat less grafted for than real street clips: “It’s relatively easy to film a skatepark clip every day, whereas to film one at a spot is a mission, and I think it’s why most people don’t bother. With how much content goes online every single minute, I would rather see something difficult and more challenging than a stream of hip tricks.”.
“I think it’s because a skatepark is purpose built and built with an intention for anyone of all ages to learn and progress.” says Baghead Crew’s Forde, “What you can do at a skatepark translates differently to what you can do on the street”.
Phil from Fuck Mountain sees the irony in disliking skatepark footage after filming at over 100 parks last year, although the crew put a unique spin on it: “We tried to skate the most unique and interesting obstacle at each park to keep it fresh”. He admitted there are certain skaters who thrive at the skatepark: “If you’re skating transition in your park like you’re Alex Chalmers or Tony Trujillo then that’s totally fine. You can’t expect those guys to shine in the street like they do at a park.”.
Forde Brookfield doesn’t mind skatepark footage in some videos, claiming there’s a nostalgia to it, but maybe overuse lead to its disappearance from modern videos: “Many of my favourite videos I owned from the 90’s and early 2000s had parks in them. I just don’t think it translates well into footage. It’s hard to make a skatepark clip look as interesting as a street clip. A lot of people had skatepark rail footage in their parts years ago, but maybe it’s because the level of skateboarding is continuously pushed further and further, that skatepark footage is just deemed as unusable now.”
Despite a predominant consensus that skatepark footage is considered cheating or somewhat lazy, the filmers I spoke to did cite videos where skatepark footage made perfect sense. Sasha from VX1000medic said that skatepark footage was at home in any Anti-Hero video. Flip Sorry, Osiris Subject to Change, The DC Video and Anti Hero’s Tent City were all listed as videos which use skatepark footage well, but talking to Phil, he also recognised that those videos are over 15 years old, and a world away from modern day videos. Callun said “Only videos from old run down gnarly bowls” could get away with using skatepark footage well these days. Videos like Heroin Skateboards’ Earth Goblin have perfect examples of this, and it goes hand in hand with the slightly more old school vibe transition skating has gone down recently.
Even still, within the confines of skateboarding’s unwritten law, if you or a company are synonymous with a specific type of skateboarding, you can write your own rules. Lance Mountain famously filmed a whole part in his backyard pool for Extremely Sorry, an example of using park and ramp skating in a more creative and unique way, which side steps skateboarding’s rules of what not to do in a video. Skaters like Danny Way and Bob Burnquist can get away with park skating in videos, largely due to their contribution toward pushing Vert into overdrive with the invention of the Mega Ramp discipline – this side of skateboarding is largely their whole appeal, so it would be weird to see them head back to the street.
I have always been an advocate for just doing whatever you want within skateboarding. No matter where people are skating, I feel like it’s always a good place to get the session going, and get something on film. I’ve always been well aware that the larger skateboarding community isn’t into skatepark footage, and I fully admit I often film park footage because I am extremely lazy and can’t be bothered to trek to 10 different street spots. Although, I also gravitate toward transition skating all up, and I would miss not having that discipline of skateboarding in my videos.
I don’t think there are any wrong answers in skateboarding – I think everything said by the filmers in this article has merit and makes perfect sense, but I also still enjoy filming, editing and watching park footage. And I guess as long as you enjoy doing it, that’s all that counts? I had more written for this, but Forde gave me a perfect conclusion for this blog post, so I’ll just let his words close this:
“Someone should film a skate video that captures the essence of 90’s skateboarding and include skatepark footage; bowl, vert, comp and demo footage. I miss videos like that. It was certainly a golden era, that was enjoyable, but I’d imagine that after a while, it grows boring. But everything grows boring if you have too much of it. How many times do you want to watch a video of someone grinding down rails? Too much of something completely voids the whole essence of the video part, or video in general. I guess that’s why variety is key. But then again, who am I to say? One of my favourite skateboarders only skates Jersey Barriers. Skate whatever you want to skate, but just remember that skateboarding is an acquired taste that often leaves bitterness in your mouth.”